Disney World continues to take steps on the gradual roll out of the NextGen project, which promises to remake the vacation experience for Disney World guests.

Turnstile Changes

For some time Disney has been changing the entrance turnstiles over from the traditional gates to the new ‘gate-less’ entrances, which feature sleek poles that read the new RFID enabled Disney World tickets. As of March, 2013, Disney has changed about half of all the admission gates across the various Disney World theme parks to the new RFID readers, while the other half remain with the old-styled turnstiles.

Until now, only people who were staying at a Disney Resort hotel or who had just purchased their admission tickets received RFID enabled tickets and could therefore use the new gate-less entrances. Existing annual passholders and people with old tickets still had the old paper-based tickets, which did not have new the RFID technology – so they had to use the old turnstiles.

As Disney switched the entrance gates from old to new, there have been little or no lines at the new RFID entrances, while there have been increasingly long lines at the old turnstiles. But that may be about to change.

The new RFID entrances have had very few lines - so far.

The new RFID entrances have had very few lines – so far.

Passholders Can Get RFID

Starting on March 20, 2013, existing annual passholders, and those purchasing new passes, can get RFID enabled admission media. The new ticket media is a plastic card that looks just like a traditional credit card. The new cards have embedded RFID technology, as opposed to the old ticket media which was made of paper and had a bar code and a magnetic stripe.

The front of the old paper (non-RFID) annual pass.

The front of the old paper (non-RFID) annual pass.

The back of the old paper (non-RFID) annual pass featured a bar code and a magnetic strip.

The back of the old paper (non-RFID) annual pass featured a bar code and a magnetic strip.

Passholder Conversion

People who currently have annual passes can convert their old paper tickets into the new RFID plastic cards by visiting the Odyssey Center in Epcot, which is located between Future World and the Mexico pavilion. Between March 20 and May 19, they can bring their old pass and a photo ID to get a new RFID plastic annual pass.

The new RFID annual passes are marked with an orange strip at the bottom to indicate free parking, or a black stripe to indicate no free parking.

The front of the new, plastic annual pass with RFID features a colored bar which indicates if the owner gets free parking.

The front of the new, plastic annual pass with RFID features a colored bar which indicates if the owner gets free parking.

The back of the new annual passes includes a magnetic strip.

The back of the new annual passes includes a magnetic strip.

No Requirement To Change

Existing annual passholders are not required to upgrade their annual passes at this time, but may do so if they wish. However, since it generally seems to be much faster to use the RFID admission gates, at least with the current mix of paper vs. RFID tickets in circulation, I suspect that many annual passholders who live nearby Disney will elect to make the switch to RFID.

All old ticket media and new ticket media, including annual passes, will continue to work with FastPass just as it has in the past. And the new RFID passes contain a magnetic strip (just like the old paper tickets) that can be read by the old FastPass machines. I personally tested this out by using my new RFID Annual Pass to get a FastPass at Test Track with no issues.

At this time, there are no MagicBands for annual passholders, people staying at Disney resort hotels, or people purchasing daily admission tickets.

Nice Bonus Displays At Odyssey

Disney definitely seemed to be ready for an onslaught of Annual Passholders who might be anxious to change over to the new media. When I showed up first thing in the morning, there were very few passholders – but it was early on a rainy day. If and when the masses of passholders show up, Disney seems to be ready to handle it.

Disney also did a nice job of decorating the Odyessey event center with displays that any Disney fan would love. There were examples of old Disney tickets from the past, a display of a doll from It’s A Small World, and a working A-1 Audio Animatronic hand. Very cool stuff, and a nice move.

The Odyssey Center in Epcot is ready for convert passholders to the new RFID cards.

The Odyssey Center in Epcot is ready for convert passholders to the new RFID cards.

Odyssey had informational signs about MyMagic+, but no new information.

Odyssey had informational signs about MyMagic+, but no new information.

Disney did a great job of installing interesting displays, like this one of old-styled admission tickets.

Disney did a great job of installing interesting displays, like this one of old-styled admission tickets.

What do you think about this next step in the NextGen rollout?